Quality Improvement

Quality improvement is the foundation of equitable expanded learning.

We help expanded learning providers build and maintain the skills, knowledge, and tools needed to deliver high-quality programs to Washington’s youth.

What is youth program quality and why is it important?

Research shows that access to quality afterschool and summer programs is key to improving youth outcomes in school and in life—especially for low-income youth and youth of color. High-quality programs engage in a continuous quality improvement process so they can meet young people’s needs with programming that is culturally responsive, inclusive, and accessible.

For children and young people,
quality programming means:

Highlands Neighborhood Center (photo by Rita Alcantara)
  • Being welcomed into safe spaces that center their own cultures and communities 
  • Having positive, meaningful relationships with program staff and youth
  • Participating in activities that encourage self-expression and inspire them to discover their passions
  • Engaging in learning opportunities that build academic, life, and career skills


For program staff and leadership, engaging in continuous quality improvement means:

Highlands Neighborhood Center (photo by Rita Alcantara)
  • Having  a common language and shared expectations that are aligned with research and best practices for positive youth development and social emotional learning 
  • Identifying their own strengths and recognizing areas for growth
  • Building awareness of structural inequities, including the impact systemic barriers have on young people
  • Implementing strategies and practices that are culturally responsive and attuned to the diverse identities and cultures of the young people, families, and communities served

Background and impact

Since 2008, School’s Out Washington has led the effort to build and sustain a quality improvement system for expanded learning programs in Washington state.

Our work is backed by research and incorporates the Youth Program Quality Intervention model developed by the Forum for Youth Investment’s David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality.

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Our approach

Our approach is youth-centered, relationship based, and multifaceted. Our intention is to foster equity, inclusion, and cultural responsiveness. We support programs in making connections between program quality, continuous quality improvement processes, and the perspectives and lived experiences of young people and program staff. 

Using the  Youth Program Quality Intervention model (which is based on the assess-plan-improve sequence), we work with programs to incorporate self-and external assessments, actionable improvement plans, and professional learning supports (i.e. coaching, training, and peer learning) to drive improvement.  

Our professional learning system includes coaching and training aligned to the Washington State Core Competencies and Program Quality Standards for Afterschool and Youth Development Programs.

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Quality Improvement pathways

It’s essential that we meet youth program providers where they’re at on their continuous quality improvement journey.  The needs of youth program providers vary across the state. This includes staff who may be new to working with youth, are new to a continuous quality improvement practice, are in the process of developing new programs, or are seeking to deepen their social-emotional learning practices.  

In addition, programs’ capacity to engage in professional learning can vary, and some programs may not have the capacity to engage in more robust or formalized continuous quality improvement practices.

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Advocacy and community

Together, we’re building an advocacy strategy that creates space for the diversity of the expanded learning and youth development sectors, while working together with a unified voice for funding to increase access and drive youth program quality. 

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Program Quality Initiative Cohorts

SOWA supports a cohort-based learning model with the Youth Program Quality Intervention process (YPQI). This model provides a shared learning experience with peers moving together through a cycle of continuous quality improvement throughout the year.

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Getting started with Quality Improvement

School’s Out Washington offers a range of options for engaging in youth program quality improvement. For some individuals and organizations the entry point is a one-time, online workshop. For others, quality improvement starts with customized training. SOWA also facilitates multi-year quality initiatives in partnership with youth development and school-age childcare programs, engaging them in the full Youth Program Quality Intervention process.

Take a workshop

Our workshops are for expanded learning, youth development, and school-age child care professionals looking to develop their skills. Or, for program managers wanting to provide learning opportunities for their staff. Thanks to our partnership with the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), providers working in licensed school-age programs can receive STARS Credits from our workshop as well.

These workshops are designed to teach foundational practices for leading and engaging young people, strategies to support social emotional learning, and much more.

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Inquire about customized workshops

Customized training is  a cost-effective way to ensure that all program staff have the same knowledge base about critical issues and best practices. Organizations with multiple locations find this approach particularly helpful for improving quality across locations.

We develop training packages that target areas for learning and improvement that can be delivered on a designated timeline.  Workshops are tailored so that all staff can gain skills together and learn how to support each other to improve their work practices with young people, families, and communities.

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Learn about the full Quality Improvement process

If you’re interested in engaging in a more robust cycle of continuous quality improvement with support from School’s Out Washington, contact our Program Quality Division Director, Ka’ohe Wong at  kwong@schoolsoutwashington.org